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Why Content Marketers Should Step Back From Creation and Focus On Strategy

Taking a step back from the day to day frenzy of content marketing to develop an effective content marketing strategy will help marketers to better ‘aim the content’ arrow, which ultimately will help them better achieve their goals.

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More Google April Fools: Everything From Emoji Translators To Free Nexus Phones

Yesterday, our editor in chief Matt McGee found a number of April Fools jokes already in play, including a Google Maps Pokemon challenge and Google+ David Hasselhoff photobombs. Today’s first batch of April Fools pranks include a few from Google, as well as jokes directed at the search giant….

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An Open Letter From Google To Local Directory Sites (Parody)

To:           Local Directories From:     Google Re:            Local Search Rankings Hey guys… You may have noticed that over the past year, a lot of the organic traffic to your sites has been… well, we guess the right word is “tanking.” As you know, it is our […]

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A (Pretend) Open Letter From Google To Local Directory Sites

To:           Local Directories From:     Google Re:            Local Search Rankings Hey guys… You may have noticed that over the past year, a lot of the organic traffic to your sites has been… well, we guess the right word is “tanking.” As you know, it is our […]

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10 Ways Apple’s iWatch Can Learn From Pebble Steel

The race to build the modern smartwatch started in earnest thanks to two major events in the past two years: Pebble’s über-successful run on Kickstarter in early 2012, and a steady drumbeat of reports in 2013 about Apple’s alleged plans to build its own iWatch (or whatever the company decides to call it, should it in fact exist).

With low-energy Bluetooth, Pebble made it easy to view important notifications, check the weather, or change the music you’re listening to without ever needing to reach for your smartphone. It managed to make digital watches look less nerdy but also far more user-friendly and functional, especially as a simple but helpful extension to the diverse apps on your smartphone.

Pebble made it easy to understand the value of a smartwatch, but the New York Times lit a fire under every major tech company in February 2013 when Nick Bilton reported on Apple’s nascent smartwatch efforts, likening its possible “next big thing” to something Dick Tracy or James Bond would use: “A watch that double[s] as a computer, two-way radio, mapping device or television.”

Suddenly everyone wanted to crack the smartwatch code before Apple could get its first iteration iWatch out the door. So far, however, Pebble remains in the forefront of this nascent market in many ways, having launched its first “appstore” in January and unveiling its premium Pebble Steel smartwatch, which is currently in limited supply.

Unfortunately for Pebble, the company’s dominance in the smartwatch space is almost sure to be short-lived. Companies with deeper pockets than Pebble, including device makers like Samsung and chipmakers such as Qualcomm, are beginning to get the hang of their own early-generation products. Meanwhile, Google recently introduced its Android SDK for wearables, which will help power smartwatch entrants from LG, Motorola and others.

And then there’s Apple, which seems likely to finally unveil its own smartwatch later this year—probably in time for the all-important holiday push. (Among the bits and pieces of evidence here are the company’s hiring spree for smartwatch makers and designers last year, as well as the recent 9to5Mac scoop outlining the new Healthbook app in iOS 8, which would ideally provide important health information by tracking data from one’s pulse.)

Many believe Apple’s iWatch will marry the looks of a luxury wristwatch with the powerful sensors found in today’s fitness wristbands, and, of course, familiar elements from the iPhone and iPad shrunken down and reconfigured to work from your wrist. Apple is undoubtedly full of its own ideas. But it would also benefit from looking at the progenitor of the modern smartwatch—or rather, its steely successor—both as inspiration and as a model to surpass.

What Apple Should Borrow From Pebble Steel

  • It actually looks like a watch: These days, wristwatches are born and worn for aesthetic purposes above all else; the key for smartwatches is to retain that physical attractiveness while also incorporating new technologies that exponentially increase the wristband’s power. The Pebble Steel is significantly smarter than a normal watch, but its low profile is excellent for blending into one’s environment. For its own smartwatch, Apple will similarly want to pursue a design that’s stylish but not gaudy, in the same way the iPhone is modern and beautiful without being ostentatious.
  • Visibility in all light: Whether in the light or in the dark, the display on the Pebble Steel is easy to view at all times. That’s because the Pebble Steel features a backlit e-paper display, which means you can read its screen even in direct sunlight. Apple’s current iOS devices are no bueno in the sunlight, but it would make more sense to consider more effective polarization methods to make the iWatch visible anywhere.
  • Notifications: This is the main reason people want smartwatches—to see who’s messaging them or what appointment is coming up without having to pull a phone from their pocket for every vibration. The Pebble Steel offers iPhone or Android smartphone owners a simple way to see incoming texts, phone calls and Facebook activities with a relatively discreet glance at their wrist. Notifications in Pebble Steel are simple “cards” with text; Apple will likely pursue a similarly simple notification system for the iWatch, but with a more colorful palette. It wouldn’t be surprising for iWatch notifications to resemble those in iOS 7, with the use of semi-transparent layers, simple iconography and playful animations.
  • Battery life: If Apple can make its iWatch battery last roughly as long as Pebble Steel, most customers ought to be satisfied. I’ve been using the Pebble Steel for a while, and in my experience it runs low on battery roughly every 5-7 days. Even better, fully charging the device via my laptop takes less than an hour. Apple products, especially early-generation ones, have tended to suffer from battery-life issues, so this would be an extremely useful rabbit for Apple to pull out of its hat.

How Apple Can Improve Upon Pebble Steel’s Model

  • Fewer buttons: The Pebble Steel features four buttons—one on the left side above the charging port and three on the right side to go up, down and select. It’s relatively intuitive, but pressing any button requires at least two fingers, and that’s not always convenient. Apple could fit the iWatch with two buttons, like it does its iOS devices—one for power, the other for “home”—but if the iWatch comes with a touchscreen, most controls and gestures would only need one finger at most, which would be significantly less awkward.
  • Improve the screen and interface: The Pebble Steel’s black and white display works in bright sunlight and at night, but colors and some multi-touch capabilities would be a nice touch (literally). At times, it would be nice to provide touchscreen inputs like swiping as opposed to awkwardly pinching the buttons around my wrist when I want to play different music or make notifications go away.
  • Appeal to women: Don’t get me wrong, the Pebble Steel is a beautiful smartwatch. But I don’t see it becoming “fashionable” anytime soon. Most smartwatches today come with rectangular watchfaces (the Moto 360 hopes to address this), but more importantly, many smartwatches are thick and bulky. Apple should deal with that front and center.
  • Fix the wristband: The Pebble Steel offers two premium wristbands, including leather and two metal styles, brushed stainless steel or black matte. Having a choice in my wristband style is nice, but I still need to visit a jeweler to get my steel wristband properly sized, and that’s a problem. Sure, Pebble is a fledgling company, but forcing customers to make multiple appointments to purchase the device and size the watch properly to one’s wrist seems like too much hassle for customers, and not something Apple would do. Removing pins to accommodate different-sized wrists also seems like an ancient, clunky solution that’s unacceptable in the world of modern technology; I couldn’t imagine Apple’s design team OK’ing an iWatch that didn’t crack this problem on how to accommodate different-sized wrists without needing to visit a jeweler.
  • Use the voice: I mentioned earlier that it takes at least two fingers to press one of the four buttons on the Pebble Steel. With a touchscreen, you’d still need to use at least one finger. Sometimes, though, I’d like to be able to use no fingers. Apple’s Siri isn’t voice-activated like Google Now, but for iWatch, perhaps a simple shake of one’s wrist could activate Siri, which would then allow you to ask directions, send texts, schedule appointments, or even tweet without needing to fiddle on your wrist.  
  • Make it comfortable: Balancing beauty with comfort isn’t easy, but if people use smartwatches as much as they use smartphones, people will be wearing this device a lot. These are the challenges Apple needs to address: Heat, size and shape. As I mentioned earlier, Apple products tend to suffer from battery issues, but complaints of overheating on a smartwatch would be disastrous for the product. So Apple needs to have a battery that’s powerful but doesn’t get too hot on people’s wrists, but also small enough fit on people’s wrists—plus, be shapely and attractive. And yet, after all of those needs, if your watch is painful for your wrist in any way, especially after extended usage, you’re not going to wear it—and that’s not good for you, or Apple.

Given the recent rush of wearables, the big question is whether Apple will add to the smartwatch conversation or simply echo it. Learning more from Pebble Steel—as opposed to the many rival smartwatches from Samsung and Sony that seem like guesses at what an iWatch could and should be—would be a big step toward building a simple wristband product that still has plenty to offer Apple’s traditional users.

Lead image by Madeleine Weiss for ReadWrite

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Google Referrer Data Is Getting Passed On Searches From IE8

IE8, still the most popular version of the Internet Explorer browser worldwide, is now passing referrer data from Google searches. The move to drop SSL is recent, and isn’t carried over to other versions of Internet Explorer. The full set of referrer data is passing through. Here’s a…

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Car Makers Drove 14.4 Million Clicks From Google Ads In 2 Months (And That Doesn’t Include Mobile)

A whopping 177 automotive manufacture sites drove 14.4 million paid search clicks from Google ads on desktops and tablets this January and February. Of those 177 advertisers, the top 20 advertisers (roughly 11 percent) accounted for 81 percent of the paid search clicks in the two month period,…

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How To Prevent People From Tagging You In Twitter Photos

You can now tag people in photos on Twitter and add up to four photos in one tweet. But thankfully for the privacy-conscious, you can determine who, if anyone, can tag you.

The new feature lets anyone tag you by default, but Twitter provides three photo-tagging privacy options: Anyone; Only people you follow; or No one.

To change your settings:

  1. Click on the gear icon on the top right of
  2. Select “Settings”
  3. Select “Privacy and Security”
  4. Under “Privacy” you can choose to restrict your photo tagging settings

Twitter’s new photo-tagging feature is an interesting move for the social network that has made a hobby of copying features from Facebook, especially now that it’s a publicly-traded company subject to scrutiny from investors on a regular basis.

On Facebook, tagging photos usually only happens among connected friends, and tags can be approved or denied by the person who’s been tagged. On Twitter, tagging photos is bound to cause more interaction between followers that aren’t naturally friends in real life, but solely know each other from 140-character outbursts.

We expect Twitter will monitor the rollout of this photo-tagging feature to ensure it’s not being abused by trolls. Still, Twitter provides plenty of ways to deal with unwanted communications on the network; not-so-coincidentally, so does Facebook.

Image via Twitter

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3 Ways The Facebook-Oculus Deal Could Work Out, From Awesome To Terrifying

Facebook just placed a $2 billion bet on the Next Big Thing by snapping up startup Oculus VR and its unreleased but much-gushed-over virtual-reality headset, the Oculus Rift. And not in the next-hit-app sense or the everyday-bullshit-press-release sense—like most actual Big Things, Oculus isn’t a one-trick-app or a gimmick.

In reality, it’s a platform so vast we literally cannot see its edges. The Oculus Rift lays the foundation for a future that we can hardly even imagine until we try it on. Mark Zuckerberg tried it on. Then he bought it.

So now what happens?

Scenario #1: With More Resources, Oculus Thrives 

Facebook is no hardware company—we’ve known that for years. But as Zuck and co. have reminded us endlessly, Facebookis a mobile company. On a conference call Tuesday to discuss the Oculus acquisition, Zuckerberg asserted his belief in virtual reality as the next major platform with fanboyish conviction. And that’s a good sign.

“Now we have this strong position on mobile and we’re feeling increasingly good about that … we think vision is going to be the next really big platform,” Zuckerberg said. “There are not that many things that are candidates to be the next computing platform.”

Unlike WhatsApp, Instagram and a string of small earlier Facebook acquisitions, Oculus isn’t a defensive play—it’s an offensive leap toward the next generation of computing. And like Instagram, Oculus has a vocal body of fierce loyalists who’ve loved the company from day one. Those true believers didn’t keep ads off of Instagram, but they kept Facebook—which still lets Instagram operate pretty much independently—in check.

To imagine the best case scenario for Oculus, let’s suspend our skepticism for a moment and listen to Palmer Luckey, the visionary founder of Oculus, who appears to have stayed up all night making that case on Reddit:

  • We now have the freedom to make the right decisions without worrying about short financial profit or investor returns.
  • We are going to have a lot of people working on other things as well (film, education, communication, etc), but we are gamers at heart. None of our gaming resources will be diverted.
  • This deal specifically lets us greatly lower the price of the Rift.
  • Oculus continues to operate independently! We are going to remain as indie/developer/enthusiast friendly as we have always been, if not more so.
  • I guarantee that you won’t need to log into your Facebook account every time you wanna use the Oculus Rift.
  • We can make custom hardware, not rely on the scraps of the mobile phone industry. That is insanely expensive, think hundreds of millions of dollars. 
  • If anything, our hardware and software will get even more open, and Facebook is onboard with that.

Key takeaways? The Rift will get cheaper. Oculus was feeling the heat from its investors and wants to be left alone for a while. You won’t need to log into a Facebook account “every time” you fire up the Rift (every time? Maybe just the first time? Whew). Facebook will let Oculus continue to serve its core indie developer community, assuming that community sticks around.

Essentially, the Oculus team remains independent, gets an infusion of talent and resources and keeps its head down working on the best virtual reality experience it can make. (Caveat: Now it’s making it for Facebook.)

The bit about the Oculus hardware and software staying open feels a little hard to believe, but then again Facebook created the Open Compute Project, an initiative to pry the lid off of proprietary server hardware in the style of open source software projects.

Scenario #2: Oculus Loses Its Innovators—Welcome To RiftVille

For anyone who’s followed the short evolution of the Oculus Rift, pairing with Facebook feels like a nightmare scenario. Oculus, with its early model held together by what looked like duct tape, was a rare scrappy upstart that punched way above its weight.

Facebook, once scrappy in its own right (if one can be scrappy at Harvard), is now a global social media force the likes of which the world has never seen. And in spite of its supposed enduring hacker ethos, it’s difficult to trust a company that snaked into our lives ten years ago and has somehow held us, often unhappily, in its thrall ever since. This fundamental distrust is keeping Oculus believers awake at night. (OK, last night, at least.)

So Oculus, which was an open platform for virtual imagination, now answers to a corporate overlord—one that makes billions from hacking our brains and serving us ads for things we never even intended for it to know we cared about. There is no precedent for how Facebook will handle Oculus. Instagram, WhatsApp, Parse—all useful tools in their own rights—don’t come close to the disruptive potential many see in the Oculus Rift.

Facebook may leave its new toy alone for a while, but former Oculus enthusiasts with big ideas are wary of the long game—the one that Facebook admits it’s playing. In this scenario, indie game developers band together and jump ship. (Notch, the legendary creator of Minecraft, is already leading the charge on this bit.)

In this scenario, the notion of a collaborative, open virtual reality platform dies on the vine. And it’s not just about game makers. Science labs around the country, even NASA, turn away from Oculus, fearing its ties to a company that thrives on owning and selling data about its users. Potential education and medical applications are rendered null by privacy concerns.

We languish in a dumb virtual purgatory of Candy Crush and FarmVille forever, wandering around listlessly issuing Likes in three dimensions instead of two.

Scenario #3: Oculus Thrives … Until Facebook Turns The Ads Spigot

In 2012, Facebook struggled to conquer mobile. Already extremely slow to bring an iPad app to market, Zuckerberg eventually admitted that investing heavily in clunky HTML5 apps rather than building native was his “biggest mistake.” Then Zuck turned the ship around, and now 53% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from mobile. Two years ago that number was 0%. Facebook is an advertising company, and while Oculus may no longer have investors to answer to, Facebook does.

Again, a reminder: Facebook is an advertising company. In its last reported quarter, $2.34 billion of its $2.59 billion total revenue came from advertising. Facebook hit its mark, serving targeted ads over smartphones and tablets, platforms on which the company commands unprecedented levels of engagement.

You know what else is engaging? The 360-degree immersive virtual environment that the Oculus Rift brings to the table.

Facebook doesn’t want or need to make money off of the hardware (again, it’s an ad company, not a hardware company). It will subsidize the hardware to get the platform into as many hands as possible. Zuckerberg stated outright that the acquisition is a “software and services thing,” going on to mutter something vague about people buying virtual goods … and well, yes, there will be ads—but don’t worry about them yet.

Sure, as Zuckerberg said, the real strategy might be five years out—Oculus will likely be left to its own devices in the meantime—but once the most engaging platform ever created reaches perfection, Facebook’s green-eyeshade types will come calling. And they won’t need to go far.

Oculus Rift images by Sergey Galyonkin via Flickr, Facebook image by Taylor Hatmaker

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Google Misattributing Content From Major News Publishers

A reader has sent us examples of Google misattributing content from dozens of large online news publications, with hundreds thousands of examples of Google indexing URLs and pages, but that content being pulled from a different source. For example, if you search for [hometownlocator…

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